A recent survey found that half of the sausages contained unsafe levels of nitrite, according to statement by Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The FDA revealed that 22 out of 44 sausages sampled contained higher-than-permitted levels of nitrite, a preservative that is linked with bowel cancer.
The FDA started testing on sausages after the Ramathibodi Poison Centre reported that 14 children had been hospitalised with methemoglobinemia – blood disorder caused by ingesting nitrite – after eating sausages that had no FDA approval stamp.
The agency has tested sausages in 8 provinces namely in Chiang Mai, Phetchaburi, Saraburi, Trang, Phayao, Songkhla, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Kanchanaburi. FDA Deputy Secretary-General Weerachai Nolwachai said, “We collected samples from 102 brands of sausage and have tested 44 brands so far. And 22 samples contained levels of the food preservative nitrite that exceeded the legal limit of 80mg per kilogram. All were sold without an FDA approval stamp on the packaging and came from factories which are not FDA-registered as food manufacturers.”
Sodium nitrite is used to speed up the curing of meat and also to impart an attractive colour. However, nitrite in high concentration can react with the body’s haemoglobin to produce methemoglobin, which reduces the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity in infants and young children.
The FDA has made police reports against the manufacturers of the 22 brands of sausage. Food manufacturers who add excessive amounts of nitrite could face up to 2 years in jail or a Bt20,000 (US$600) fine, or both.
Weerachai advised consumers to check for the FDA stamp on sausage packaging as well as read through the nutritional labels for any excessive use of additives before purchasing the products. In addition, consumers should avoid buying sausages from unreliable sources.